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'Home church' takes on new meaning for 100-year-old

Frances Saltzman, who turns 100 on Wednesday, holds her rosary recently at her Rock Hill home. Today after Mass, St. Anne Catholic Church will hold a reception for Saltzman, believed to be the church's oldest member.
Frances Saltzman, who turns 100 on Wednesday, holds her rosary recently at her Rock Hill home. Today after Mass, St. Anne Catholic Church will hold a reception for Saltzman, believed to be the church's oldest member.

When Bill Saltzman finally convinced his mother to move from New Jersey to Rock Hill, where he has lived for 25 years, she needed a home church.

Frances Saltzman was 95 years old and Catholic every one of those years. She must take communion, the host, the metaphoric Body of Christ.

For hundreds of millions in the world, communion is as much a part of being a Catholic as breathing.

"I must take communion," Frances Saltzman said. "It is very important."

Bill's wife, Patti, found St. Anne Catholic Church. But Frances Saltzman couldn't get around well, so the church found people to take the communion to Saltzman.

The practice of going to the sick or needy who can't get to church is not unlike help furnished at Protestant churches.

For Catholics, the host, the wafer, must be consecrated at the church during Mass, said Eli Furo, who along with wife Charlotte has brought communion to Frances Saltzman on Sundays for five years.

The host is blessed at the altar by the priest. It is placed in a special container just for that purpose. The Furos drive directly to Saltzman's apartment, attached to her son's home.

"No stopping at the store or for something to eat," Eli Furo said.

"No stopping to shop," Charlotte Furo said. "It must be directly from church."

The Furos are Eucharistic ministers, meaning they can carry the host to Saltzman and continue the Mass that was said at the church.

When the Furos arrive, they find this lady, who turns 100 on Wednesday, decked out in pearls around her neck. Matching pearl earrings, broach, pressed pantsuit or dress. Heeled shoes. Her hair is done at the beauty parlor every other Saturday, for this occasion called church.

In her hands will be rosary beads. She's held a rosary when she has prayed since the time cars were cranked by hand, and she's not stopping now.

"The prayers keep me alive and healthy, and I look the way I do on Sunday because it is Mass," Saltzman said. "It just happens to be here in my home. I used to do it for others when I was younger."

The Furos read prayers and the Gospel, Eli Furo said.

"Mrs. Saltzman knows it all by heart," Furo said.

I asked Frances Saltzman how she lived so long and in such a Christian way, and she said she never smoked, ate right and was careful about what she did and where she did it.

"I was a bum sport," she cackled.

This lady who worked in a World War II defense plant, was a real telephone operator where the ladies pushed the jacks into the holes, learned to drive at age 65 and stopped driving at age 91 will have her hair done and her clothes perfect.

To say she is a hoot is almost ridiculous. Her late husband, Oscar, died more than 20 years ago. She doesn't hear so well, so I asked loudly if she had a boyfriend.

"I'm available," she said back just as loud. "Know anybody?"

This morning is different. You only turn 100 once.

Today after Mass, the church is holding a reception for the lady believed to be the oldest member. She will go. But first Bill, Saltzman's son, will take her to St. Anne for the special Mass dedicated to her. She will be helped down the aisle, and she will take communion.

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